One of the most common questions CISL students ask their teachers is how to respond to casual greetings. How do you respond when a friend asks “How’s it going?” Or what about when you enter a store and the friendly salesperson asks, “How are you doing today?” With these questions in mind, we have provided some casual greetings and responses for our CISL students. We hope that these make it easier for you to start up conversations while you are studying English in San Diego or San Francisco!


Casual English greetings and responses

There are basically two forms of casual greetings in English: ones that begin with “how” and ones that begin with “what.” Here are some examples of greetings that begin with “how”:

  • How’s it going?
  • How are you?
  • How’s life?
  • How are things?
  • How have you been? (If you haven’t seen the person in a while.)
  • How’s it shakin’? (Asked jokingly)


Responses to “how” questions are typically adjectives. Words like “good, well, great, awful, terrible, horrible” are very common, and a very neutral response is “It’s going” if you are feeling  a little depressed. The adjective is typically followed by a more detailed account of your life and how you have been lately.

Would you to increase your synonyms for common English words? Check out our post on synonyms for “awesome.

Example: “How are things?”

Answer 1: “Good! I just went hiking with my roommate and now I’m getting some dinner. You?”

Answer 2: “Things are great. I just went to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market and bought the best fruits! Want some?”

Answer 3: “Terrible. I had planned on going to the beach with my roommate but she’s sick! Now I don’t know what to do!”


The second type of greeting question begins with “what.” Examples include the following:

  • “What’s going on?”
  • “What’s happening?”
  • “What’s happening?”
  • “What’s new?”
  • “What’s been going on?” (Usually when you know the person and haven’t seen them in a while.)
  • “What’s crackin’/shakin’?”  (asked jokingly)


Responses to “what” questions typically include something like “Not much, Nothing, Not too much, Nothing much” and then a more detailed account of what you have been doing lately. For example:

Question: “What’s going on?”

Answer 1: “Not much. I’m just getting ready to go whale watching with some friends. Want to come?”

Answer 2: “Not much. I’ve been going to Pacific  Beach a lot lately. Do I look tan?”

Answer 3: “Not much. Just going to get a burrito after class.”


Remember, not always knowing what to say is OK: you are studying English in San Diego or San Francisco because you are here to learn! Never feel shy or embarrassed to ask a question when you have one. CISL students always say how friendly Americans are and how eager they are to help.